The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Home smoked bacon in your chinmey: Tips and tricks

fireplace embersI woke up on Thursday and realised that I was missing an essential item in my wardrobe. I had to get a hoodie

And I wasn’t planning a heist at Cheveley Post Office.

It’s pretty sooty when I stretch up into the canopy of our inglenook fireplace, to hang our home cured bacon. This could be the answer to keeping clean.

I hadn’t realised how clingy soot is.
“You’ve ruined your cardigan.” Danny was trying to brush off the soot.
“Do you mean I’ve got to wash it?”

The next morning there was a perfect black circle on my pillowcase. Danny’s was squeaky clean. I examined my hair, eyebrows and clothes. All had smuts.

The next ‘smoke’ was on Saturday. That afternoon I bumped into The Chicken Lady. Her face was a picture when I mentioned that I was going to Newmarket to buy a hoodie.

“Why?”

I explained. She instantly produced one from the boot of her car. Not the normal cotton hoodie that we all know and loathe. This was lightweight nylon number, with a zip and a hood. Perfect to slip on for occasional smoking up the chimney.

So last night I modelled the dark blue nylon hoodie as I hung our bacon on sturdy hooks above the expansive grate.

I fiddled and tweaked to get the smoke just right as Danny poured the first cocktails. (How do I get the fire just right? See tricks and tips below). We chatted for hours as the cottage filled with the aroma of wood smoke and sweet bacon. A perfect evening.

What did we do?

The Chicken Lady had bought free range bacon and wet cured it in a saline solution for 36 hours. (How do I make the saline solution? See tricks and tips below) Then she removed it and rubbed in maple syrup several times throughout the afternoon.

We had wet cured a loin joint (to make back bacon) in a solution of salt and Demerara sugar. Then we rubbed in black treacle just before smoking.

We also wet cured a joint of pork belly (to make streaky bacon) in a solution of salt and black treacle. We added a black treacle rub afterwards, both outside and in the flap where the bones had been removed. The final procedure was just before we wrapped the joints in muslin. Next time I am going to air dry my joints for an hour or so to form a pellicle. This will make a surface for the rub to adhere to.

How it turned out

I didn’t taste TCL’s bacon. Our streaky bacon was perfect, sweet and not too salty. Our back bacon was a bit too salty so we soaked the joint in cold water for an hour to remove the saltiness. After this we could taste the woodsmoke and the flavour of the bacon came through.

What we discovered

Muslin is great for containing the bacon and a rub. Too much muslin shields the bacon from the smoke. Last week I wrapped my bacon in one layer of muslin. By the morning it was partially cooked. Delicious just thrown in a hot frying pan for a few seconds each side. But this time I wanted proper, raw bacon.

On Saturday I wrapped the meaty side in two layers of muslin and left the fat side with just the one layer. After sixteen hours it was smoked but not cooked. Our joint of streaky (belly of pork was the same).

The Chicken Lady’s joint had been wrapped in four layers of muslin and was not right. When I reached for the joint it felt floppy. As the log was still smoking I rewrapped the joint with 2 layers of muslin over the meat side and one layer over the skin side. And put it back in our chimney. I checked it every couple of hours. This was a fascinating process. I could see the smoke gradually affecting the meat. After an additional six hours, their joint was smoked.

Tricks and tips:

How do I make the saline solution?

It is easy to get the right saline solution. Gradually add your salt to your water until an egg (in it’s shell) floats about 0.5 cm proud of the water. Then add your other seasonings.

How do you get the fire just right?

The idea is to get the fire to burn gently and smoke for hours with little or no flame. Too much heat cooks the bacon. Using one enormous log helps. Wetting the log from above with a spray can contain the flames once the fire has got going a bit. Bellows come in handy if the fire seems to be dying. Next time I’m going to get the fire to the smouldering stage before I put the bacon in the chimney.

The log in the photo had smouldered for 24 hours.


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1 Comment

  1. Jorgelina

    Trying out your recipe for Membrillo (Quince). As I type it is turning a wonderful colour. The smell in the house is glorious. Thank you

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